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The Film

A LION IN THE HOUSE follows the stories of five exceptional children and their families as they battle pediatric cancer. From the trauma of diagnosis to the physical toll of treatment, this series documents the stresses that can tear a family apart as well as the courage of children facing the possibility of death with honesty, dignity and humor. As the film compresses six years into one narrative, it puts viewers in the shoes of parents, physicians, nurses, siblings, grandparents and social workers who struggle to defeat an indiscriminate and predatory disease.

The Families

The Kids

This unprecedented portrait of pediatric cancer’s life-altering effects introduces seven-year-old Alex, a bundle of energy with dark eyes and curls; and Tim, a mercurial, quick-witted 16-year-old with a thousand-watt smile. Justin is amiable and stalwart at 19, despite ten years of fighting the disease. Jen is a serious, quiet six-year-old and Al is a quicksilver, wry 11-year-old.

Each child has a unique experience in confronting the disease and the treatment, but each embarks on a journey that is bewildering, terrifying, nearly unbearable and certainly quite unlike anything most people associate with the normal experience of childhood. The families of the children join them on their harrowing odyssey, and regardless of outcome, no one involved will ever be the same again.

The Parents

Even as they cope with their children’s pain and discomfort, the parents must also find a way to finance the enormous costs of treatment. Alex’s father Scott estimates that his insurance company has paid two million dollars so far for his daughter’s treatment. Meanwhile, Al’s mother, Regina, has minimal insurance coverage and must navigate a mystifying bureaucracy to get her son’s medical bills paid. And Marietha, who used to work before Tim got sick, is now on welfare and must spend money she can’t afford on cab fares to visit Tim in the hospital.

Meet The Families »

The Filmmakers

Directors Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert take their cameras into these dilemmas and inside hospital rooms, family homes and medical staff meetings, providing audiences with a rare look behind-the-scenes as families and medical professionals wrestle with difficult questions and negotiate a plan of action. Agonizing questions arise: in the face of a persistently negative prognosis, how do parents and children find hope for each other? When does optimism become denial? When a child doesn’t respond, at what point should treatment be stopped? And who should make the decisions—the parents, the doctors, or the children themselves?

Points of view diverge and nerves shatter as the families and children confront such life and death decisions in this intimate, intense and ultimately inspiring documentary about ordinary people working through the impossible.

Read the Filmmaker Bios »

Read the Filmmaker Q&A »

Read the Filmmaker Journal »

See the Film Credits »

The Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center

At Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, children find support and treatment for cancer and other diseases, while families learn to cope with the demands of caregiving and the hospital’s doctors and researchers work to find new treatments and cures.

Learn more about the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital »

Learn about the medical staff »


Quote from Alex's dad
In a doctor’s office: a seven-year-old girl smiles over her shoulder at the camera while receiving medical treatment